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A Virgo is a Leo is a Cancer is a...
Mini Singhal was born on October 29, 1979. That makes her, according to the western zodiac system, a Scorpio - a sign she likes because astrologer and bestselling author Linda Goodman says such women have "a deep, mysterious beauty, are magnetic, proud and totally confident. " Singhal likes to think that the description sits pretty on her, she of the "most powerful" zodiac sign. "I totally identify with my sun sign, the way I identify with my name, " she says.
She might just have a bad surprise in store, something that may even lead to an identity crisis of sorts. What if she's told that like numerous others she hasn't been following the right star sign all her life and that she is indeed a Virgo, that Goodman in reality hasn't been all that good to her? "Oh, ok, then, " she says, slightly off balance, "At least I am not Piscean, they are such wimps. "
Unknown to most believers of star signs - which would mean almost all of us - there is a growing group of astrologers and rationalists who swear that we have been following the wrong zodiac and that in its present form it is all wrong. The theory is that when it was developed by the Babylonians in 450 BCE they missed out on a crucial bit of information which became apparent to mankind only later with further advances in science. But the signs were never recalibrated.
So, what's your real, real sun sign? And does it change who you are?
There are some who can't be bothered to find out. It doesn't matter to them where the sun, moon and the planets were when they were born because, in any case, these heavenly bodies are thousands of kilometres away, too far to affect them on earth. But for those who hold the tiny dots of light in the sky responsible for everything - from not finding a suitable NRI groom to premature greying of hair - a possible answer to this question would lie in understanding how the signs have changed over a couple of thousand years.
Western astrology believes in 12 constellations of 30 degrees each which make up 360 degrees of the zodiac or the apparent path of the sun across the sky as observed from the earth. While it was first developed by the Babylonians, it was the Greeks who improvised on it and laid the foundation of modern western astrology. According to the system, the sun is hosted by each of these 12 star clusters between certain days of the year. For instance, it shines bright amongst the nine stars that make up constellation Virgo from August 23 to September 22. If you are born between these dates your sun sign is Virgo and you supposedly have a set of characteristics typical to your sign - love for perfection, in this case, is one of the most celebrated and bragged about.
But here's the twist in the tale. The ancient Babylonians were smart enough to map the twinkling constellations and the movement of the sun in and out of them, but they were yet to figure out the concept of 'precession'. To put it simply, it refers to the change in the direction of the earth's rotational axis in relation to fixed stars. This change occurs because the earth not just rotates on its axis but also wobbles - like a spinning top. This is because of the tilt in the earth's rotational axis resulting from unequal gravitational forces exerted on it by the sun and the moon. In addition to rotation, the earth's axis also exhibits an extremely slow gyroscopic motion. If observed from the top of the North Pole, precession makes the tip of the earth's rotational axis trace a circle. And it takes 26, 000 years to complete one such circle.
The importance of precession in astrology stems from the fact that the angle of the tilt of earth's axis on the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere is taken as the 'zero point', or the starting of the zodiac. Which means that from 0 degree to 30 degrees is Aries, followed by Taurus between 30 to 60 degrees, and so on. Now, since this reference point has moved over the years (due to precession), the subsequent position of the rest of the zodiac has too. Therefore, it is important to factor in the precession of the earth's axis to know your 'correct' sun sign. However, western astrologers have refrained from doing so and continue to refer to the zodiac based on the placement of stars millions of years ago.
If precession is taken into account, it throws the zodiac completely out of whack. Take this for a reality check: the sun sign of people born between June 22 and July 20 is not Cancer but Gemini.
As if this was not enough to shake your belief, science deals another blow to the zodiac system in the shape of Ophiucus, or the serpent bearer -- the 13th constellation. It seems that this group of stars escaped the probing eyes of the Babylonians as they divided the sky into 12 compartments. It, therefore, does not find a mention in western astrology. If you were born between November 30 and December 17, your sun sign is Ophiucus and not Saggitarius. If indeed stars speak then they have been telling lies. Perhaps now you'll understand why your outspoken Arian self never got along with your partner's Saggitarian spontaneity though Goodman promised smouldering chemistry between the two signs.
Goodman, it seems, is just as random about predicting the compatibility of two people as your family panditji or astrologer are (even though they claim to be more accurate). Indian astrologers make birth charts (kundlis) and predictions by tracing the position of a constellation, or nakshatra, in the night sky and then deducting 23 degrees (the angle of tilt of the earth's axis) from it to get its "exact" position. Indians do take precession into consideration.
"We make predictions based on what we see - the planets and stars visible in the night sky at the time of the prediction. Even though other planets are there, we don't count their influence on your life because at that precise moment they are retrograde or not visible to the naked eye, " explains astrologer Pandit Ajai Bhambi who has just come out with the book Vedic Sun Signs.
Because Indians deduct 23 degrees from the visible position of a constellation, it translates into a gap of 23 days between sun signs in western zodiac and desi ones. "If somebody is born on March 24 then his Vedic sun sign will be Pisces, whereas the western sun sign will be Aries, " says Bhambi. You have to bear in mind, though, that it may be erroneous to believe you are an Aries even in the western scheme of things if you are born on March 24 - the point exactly that anti-astrologers are trying to make.
When TOI-Crest approached some western astrologers to explain these obvious discrepancies, none was able to do so. Marjorie Orr, a well-known astrologer whose daily predictions are carried in a host of magazines offered this: "The earth does tilt on its axis and the line through the centre of the earth has moved roughly from the constellation of Pisces into the constellation of Aquarius though the start and finish dates are difficult to pinpoint. " (Huh!) Orr used to be an award-winning journalist who later turned to psychotherapy and astrology.
But what she says makes little sense. Bejan Daruwala, a hugely successful astrologer whose column Ganesha Speaks is followed by millions in India, dismisses the allegations of falsehood and doubt as "bull****. " The much-respected octogenarian says, "Everyone is a master in love and astrology. " (Err, what was that, again?) Even as you struggle to understand what it could possibly mean, he throws his latest predictions at you. On July 11, he says, he foretold in a city paper that Spain will score a goal in the last 11 minutes and win the world cup. That's much better than Octopus Paul who could only predict a simple Spain win. To drive home the importance of number 11, Daruwala also mentions that July 11 is his birthday and that the number of his residential flat is 11. Two days before the Mangalore air crash, he says he had told a popular FM radio channel in Mumbai that because of certain "arrangement" between Uranus and Saturn, there will be an air crash.
A phone conversation with numerologist Sanjay B Jumaani followed a similar trajectory. He claims he had correctly predicted that Sakshi will prove lucky for M S Dhoni. The Indian skipper grabbed Rs 210 crores as part of various advertisement deals soon after his marriage to her. As for the question of precession and a missing constellation, he says "all this is automatically controlled. " (Yeah, right) To most rational people, it is amply clear that planets and stars are just what they are and they don't influence your professional and personal life. Dr N Rathnasree, director, Nehru planetarium, says, "In my opinion, astrology is just an abuse of astronomy by astrologers - for business interests. " So, what is your sun sign? The answer seems to be floating somewhere in the swirling, churning motions of the universe which astrologers desperately try to link with your life on earth. It's a great pick up line, though.
THE 'REAL' SUN SIGNS
SAGITTARIUS Nov 23 - Dec 21
Dec 18-Jan 18
CAPRICORN Dec 22 - Jan 20
Jan 19-Feb 15
AQUARIUS Jan 21 - Feb 19
Feb 16-Mar 11
PISCES Feb 20 - Mar 20
Mar 12-Apr 18
ARIES Mar 21 - Apr 20
Apr 19-May 13
TAURUS Apr 21 - May 21
May 14-Jun 19
GEMINI May 22 - Jun 21
Jun 20-Jul 20
CANCER Jun 22 - Jul 23
Jul 21-Aug 9
LEO Jul 24 - Aug 23
Aug 10-Sept 15
VIRGO Aug 24 - Sep 23
Sep 16-Oct 30
LIBRA Sept 24 - Oct 23
Oct 31-Nov 22
SCORPIO Oct 24 - Nov 22
Nov 23-Nov 29
OPHIUCHUS Not counted
Nov 30-Dec 17
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